Whether you're trying to figure out how to stop a dog pulling on a leash or you're looking for ways to calm a reactive dog, one thing almost all pet parents can agree on is that they want their canine companion to be well behaved.
And let's be honest — trying to get them there can feel more than a little challenging some days! But, as it turns out, there's a really common mistake we can make as dog owners that can actually create and exacerbate a whole range of behavioral issues in our dogs.
According to expert trainer Amelia Steele, a graduate of the prestigious Victoria Stilwell Academy, unleashing our dogs when we're out on a walk and letting them interact with hoards of other pups can create serious issues.
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"There’s nothing bad about socializing your dog, but you want to be careful about how you do it," explains Steele in the Instagram video above. "Remember that our dogs are always learning and it’s important to think about what different situations teach them.
"By socializing your dog with other dogs as your everyday walk, you can create so many issues. Not only can it create reactivity in dogs by overexposing your dog to other dogs, it can also create really bad social skills."
While this may sound weird, just because your dog is socializing, doesn't mean they're going to have good social skills.
"When dogs are constantly playing and rough housing and they get used to this all the time, they're going to find it very, very difficult to greet new dogs in a calm way because they're just going to be so used to constantly socializing," Steele explains.
"As soon as you walk past a dog that your dog can't go over to, there's a really high risk that they're going to become frustrated and bark"
Steele goes on to say that dogs who are exercised and socialized in this way tend to be the ones that end up having a lot of difficulties with recall and general listening skills. That's because all of the value outside the home is coming from other dogs, not from you.
Thankfully, if you feel you might be guilty of making this mistake with your dog, Steele says it's never too late to turn things around.
Here are some of Steele's top tips for getting your dog's behavior back on track:
- Vary walks to include sniffy walks and engagement exercises (check out this person's account of how much a 45-minute sniffari tired out their Border Collie)
- Build neutrality around dogs and teach them that most dogs are nothing exciting
- Proactively train reactivity exercises
- Encourage regular breaks when your dog is socializing
And if you still find you're struggling with your dog's challenging behavior after working with them on this for several months, we recommend reaching out to a professional trainer for some 1:1 support.
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Kathryn is a freelance writer who has spent the past three years dividing her writing time between her two great loves - pets and health and wellness. When she’s not busy crafting the perfect sentence for her features, buying guides and news pieces, she can be found hanging out with a very mischievous Cocker Spaniel and a super sassy cat, drinking copious amounts of Jasmine tea and reading all the books.